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Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  466 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Knowledge of the basic ideas and principles of science is fundamental to cultural literacy. But most books on science are often too obscure or too specialized to do the general reader much good.

Science Matters is a rare exception-a science book for the general reader that is informative enough to be a popular textbook for introductory courses in high school and college, an
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Published June 2nd 2009 by Random House Audio (first published November 1st 1990)
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Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 52-books, science
If we can send this book several hundred years back in time, we'd be so scientifically advanced as a species, that we probably would be colonizing a couple more planets of the solar system and voyaging in interstellar space.

The premise of the book is that US voters get to vote on policies that need some scientific background that they don't usually have (issues like stem cell research, climate change, evolution...etc). The book's goal is to help the reader become scientifically literate.

To this
Nick Gotch
Jan 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking to familiarize yourself with popular science topics in the news and media or just looking to learn a little more about the natural world, this book's the perfect solution. It doesn't get so far into the nitty-gritty details as to boar the casual reader but explores each subject thoroughly and in-depth enough.

For those who already know a subject to some fair extent, such as myself with physics, those sections may seem a little basic. This is, of course, the point of the book and
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To be clear, I do think this book has a slightly misleading subtitle, which seems to indicate a focus on scientific literacy on a societal level. However, even the most perfunctory glance though the table of contents or the text itself reveals that this is a book aimed at achieving scientific literacy in the reader. Indeed, it excels at this goal. The writing is simple enough to understand without background knowledge, yet complex enough that it tackles real issues in a non-patronizing way. I es ...more
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great entry to many scientific fields, from astronomy to geology to biology and evolution. It aims to equip the reader with a basic understanding of current scientific topics and does so quite efficiently. Most of the content is interesting and awe-inspiring, although there were a few tiny instances where I would have liked a more skeptically scientific tone better. A few topics were also not as detailed as the others (presumably inevitable in this large a scope). Nevertheless, th ...more
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good science read for those of us who happened to major in the humanities; it's easy to read but not watered down too much; it's well organized and holds interest; they use a good deal of metaphors to get across abstract ideas. But it's only a brief summary or review of sorts.

Naturally, you probably know a thing or two already--in that case just enjoy the ride. Perhaps you even have a solid scientific patois, remnants of a high school/university education. But chances are that you don't e
Andrew Lynch
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, science
This book is terrific overview of of the many fields of science. Hazen gives a sufficient and fascinating overview of each science topic. The discussion is fast-paced and thoroughly engages the reader.
This book covers physics, biology, evolution, climate change, astronomy, chemistry and many other topics.

Look forward to reading more books by Robert M. Hazen
Bill Pardi
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Good survey of contemporary science topics. Not deep on anything. I was familiar with many of the topics covered, but I found it a nice refresher and appreciated the different perspective on several topics.
Picked this book up while visiting the McDonald Observatory in far West Texas. Very very good overview of many aspects of science. As one interested in science myself, the daughter of a scientist and medical man fascinated with all facets of science, I agree with the premise of the authors. It is important for lay people to develop a basic scientific literacy. Too many people leave the hard sciences alone, and thus miss out on some of the most fascinating adventures being lived out right now! Or ...more
For me this book didn't live up to its title. As I started reading I quickly switched off and went into skim mode. There was way too much information to absorb for someone with my appalling lack of science education. By page seventy-three I realised that of course I must stop reading it in this silly beginning-to-end fashion, and instead keep it as a reference book – a function it will fulfil extremely well.

And now I am going to damn the poor book with faint praise....

It is fairly well written.
Lee Penney
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was ready to give this a lower score by the half way point. Up to then I’d listened through a long and pointless introduction, a section of the various US scientific bodies (why is this even included?) and it seemed like the book would focus heavily on physics and chemistry and brush through other subjects.

By the end I had to concede it was a good, broad walk through much of science, both the established theories and the cutting edge developments in a number of fields. It flows fairly seamless
Chris Brownell
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am digging this book. The organization, and breadth of the content are astute. These guys have written what ought to be everybody's text for Freshman Science in College. Use this book in a two semester sequence and colleges will serve the general student in a far greater way than the present practice of science requirements.
I have several friends and colleagues who have phd's in various sciences: physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, ... Any of them who have read this book have also said tha
Scarlett Sims
I'm downrating this a little bit just because it wasn't exactly what I had expected. I thought it was going to be more about the problems of science literacy rather than a proposed solution to that problem. So basically if you don't have any background in science this book gives a general overview. There were a few things I didn't know before but really, I'm not the target audience. The tone is sort of a more general/broad Brian Greene with not quite as much personality as Bill Bryson. I did lik ...more
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this in hopes of clear explanations of current scientific issues. The book started out very promising. I enjoyed the explanations, yet somewhere in the beginning, the explanations were a bit fuzzy - not clarifying what they were talking about exactly. Of course, like most practical teaching, it would best be paired with an interactive section like a partner website to demonstrate motion of particles, molecules, etc.

I thought the authors had a lovely sense of humor, adding in charming met
Daniel Jordan
I really enjoyed this book, I liked the idea of science's "Big Ideas", which I think is a great way to understand the world. I did find it a bit physics-heavy, which is not a problem to me since I am a physicist, however I am not sure how it can help people who are not physicists or scientists. Also, in some cases where more scientific detail would've been very helpful, I felt they skimmed it, as in the cases of biotechnology and climate science, and rather spent too much on particle physics whi ...more
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Until the universe was this old, all four forces were unified, and things were as beautiful and simple and elegant as they could be. Particles of matter in its most fundamental form interacted through the medium of a single unified force. It's all been downhill since then."

I am so appreciative of this book and its authors. What a hefty and audacious goal to write this book and what brilliant execution. As a disclaimer, I studied chemistry in school, though I think the organization of the book d
Apr 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
Easy refresher for those more familiar with scientific ideas, and works well as a general introduction for the curious individual who wants to gain a better understanding. As a science teacher, I like the case laid out by the authors on science literacy. I also like how the focus was on holistic concept-based instruction, teaching the core concepts of science, rather than spoon-feeding trivia. The chapters were broken down into select principles of science everyone should be familiar with. The e ...more
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Detailed survey science book"

This probably shouldn't be your introductory survey science book ("The History of Nearly Everything" would be a better intro). If you had read other science books recently and want to know more of the fundamentals, this would be a good intro to give you a good foundation. Some sections are hard to follow if it is the first time in years you've come across that bit of science.

Suffers from being slightly out of date. Covers science literacy very nicely.
Rey Walker
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Provides an excellent primer (or review) and includes easily understood information about the major science fields and findings. The authors' intent is to enable the non-sciencey person to engage in a discussion of current science-related events influencing public policy. They also demonstrate well that a basic understanding of science does, in fact, matter.

The narrator does a nice job of nuanced emotion. His voice is soothing but not sleep-inducing.
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-books
I think most people should be attuned to the basic ideas of science. I love science and it is a fundamental part of our everyday life. To be able to answer simple scientific questions that your child may ask to being able to understand and even participate in conversations that are science related is important in the success of our culture. This book delves into the basics of science and focuses on modern topics that tend to come up whether in conversation or on the front page news.
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
A very good book which gives detailed overviews of different scientific disciplines. Not having a solid scientific background, I found the book challenging. More visuals of the scientific principles would have been beneficial to me. Overall, the book is very informative, detailed, and the authors make good analogies to describe scientific principles. I do feel more scientifically literate than before.
Oct 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was aimed at a younger audience, but as such it's good. It's well paced, spending enough time on each concept to be clear without boring, and it does a great job of explaining things in order of how they are connected in the real world, as opposed to how they might be ordered in high school curriculum.

Read it if you feel like you never got or need a review of middle and high school science, otherwise you'll just skim.
I purchased this book as part of a study set for a CLEP test. If I had known then what I know now... I would have just read this one to begin with. This book is packed with the most useful information and explains concepts in a fascinating and comprehensible way. While I may not feel completely scientifically literate, I do not feel like a scientific idiot.
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok - not my usual read, but I've been on a nonfiction kick. This book is perfect for a non-scientist (like me!) to brush up on things that you probably learned in high school and have since forgotten. It's well written and focuses on ways scientific knowledge applies to daily living and current issues.
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-education
Possibly the smoothest explanations of key scientific concepts that it is possible to give a reader. These authors clearly grasp the idea of understanding something at its deepest, simplest principles.

As my father, an excellent scientist, would say, "If you can't explain it to your grandma, you don't understand it yourself."
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It explains in layman's terms scientific concepts everyone should know about. The edition I read was the first edition, since I got my copy from a pile of old free books, and, accordingly, some of the gaps in knowledge where the authors said "we don't know yet" have since been answered, such as the shape of the universe and more about the nature of black holes.

All in all, a worthwhile read.
Casey McCann
I made it through this book, but it took over a year. I liked their explanations of Newton's laws and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The writing was direct and fairly easy to read, but humorless and without style. It really felt like a chore to get to the end of it, like eating raw broccoli with no dip.
Lucas Miller
Took me about three months to get through this one. While the info is solid, important and skillfully explained, it reads very much like a textbook. A well-written textbook but a textbook. It's kind of like a "How Things Work" book for adults so I think it would be a great desk reference and I don't regret reading/listening to it in its entirety but I had to take in in rather small doses.
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While reading should be an escape, a reprieve from life's stresses, I feel that, at times, we forget that reading is a source of education and a time to better ourselves intellectually. This book achieves just that. It was a wonderful refresher course and reminded me that we all have limitless possibilities to learn and create. Just look at how far we have come. Everyone should this book.
Leanna Aker
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a nice summary book for a layperson to read that includes a brief chapter on many important areas in science ranging from chemistry to physics to biology. Each chapter has a nice "frontiers" section that discusses what is the near future for studies/discoveries in each particular area.
Dominique Ortonward
I had to read this book for a science class and it was tedious and not to the point. In the beginning it told us we aren't scientifically literate and that your stupid because you aren't. Very boring. If I could give it an eighth of a star I would.
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Robert M. Hazen, Senior Research Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1971), and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in earth science (1975). The Past President of the Mineralogical Society of Americ ...more
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“For us, scientific literacy constitutes the knowledge you need to understand public issues. It is a mix of facts, vocabulary, concepts, history, and philosophy. It is not the specialized stuff of the experts, but the more general, less precise knowledge used in political discourse.” 0 likes
“Intense study of a particular field of science does not necessarily make one scientifically literate. Indeed, it has been our experience that working scientists are often illiterate outside their own field of professional expertise.” 0 likes
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